This past weekend, I celebrated my 10 year high school reunion. I’ve kept in touch with only a handful of friends, many of whom did not make it to the reunion. For some of the people I saw over the weekend, I haven’t seen them in ten years. For others, I last saw them at the 5 year reunion.
Five years ago, I was still working in the world of PR. I had just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and finished my first year at the Maison Sapho School of Dressmaking & Design. After finishing undergrad, I was convinced that I would spend the rest of my career in a fashion related field so I jumped in full-force with the job, a second degree, and of course, dress-making skills. I have no regrets about any of them, but it’s interesting to see that I did not end up in fashion.
At the 5th year reunion, I spoke to former classmates about my job and how I had just taken the Introduction to Baking course at ICE. I told them how much I loved it and that I liked baking more than my real job. Even some of my classmates commented on how I was in a transition period during 2009 with a lot on my plate and no idea where it would take me.
By the time I met Simon, late in 2009, I was planning my next steps. I considered moving to California to go to the Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Meeting him kept me from moving and I chose to go to school locally. We knew quickly that we were a serious couple. It took longer to figure out that we were ok working together as business owners (um, we still fight about it to this day).
In five short years, I made a complete life change. I’m not wondering about a different career, I’m wondering about whether I can do my job better. I used to hire a trainer to help me lift 10 lb weights and now I carry around 50 lbs of sugar on a daily basis. We own two bakeries!
In the weeks after my last post, Simon and I have trained our staff for the UWS location and phased ourselves out. I’m no longer there every morning and Simon is there 3-4 times a week. I go in unannounced to check things out and see how everything looks. Nicole helped us put a lot of great systems in place in the new location and they’re so great that we’re working on implementing them downtown.
Our kitchen team is getting faster and more efficient. We’re testing out a new schedule. I’m coming in with another member at 6 am to try to get a set of macarons made by the time everyone else arrives a few hours later. In return, I get to leave early. It makes me feel really uncomfortable to leave while people are still working, but I felt like pulling away is something I need to do. I fight myself every day to stop micromanaging so I can focus on the bigger picture. For me, the bigger picture is to make sure we have enough macarons for what we need, take the opportunity to test things, and to actually have a work/life balance. Some people believe it’s impossible to have that balance while owning a business, but four years in, I’m still optimistic that one day, I will have 2 days off!
I hear a lot of other stories about how difficult it is to be in food. It’s fascinating how it’s different for everyone. Some people commit to a life of working 80+ hour weeks. Some people work really hard for a little bit to get their business off the ground and others involved – a great sous chef, a co-packer, etc. – to keep things going, which frees up their time to pursue other things. I’ve never wanted to hand off all of the work to someone else, but I feel like if I’m still working this much 5 years from now (aka 9 years into being a business owner), then I have not done things right. I love working, but I’d like to actually have the time to do things like actually use the gym membership I paid for, eat more Shake Shack, learn how to fry eggs over-easy, and buy a new couch. It’s hard to figure out what is the right balance where we’re not micromanaging, but we’re not so hands-off that we’re losing quality.
But we’ll see what the future holds. I can’t believe we have a second store and it’s all been so seamless. Being in business is so much easier when you have great people to help you and it wouldn’t have been this easy without Nicole. The classes wouldn’t have been as smooth without Simon to help ease up the mood with jokes to fill in potential awkward silences. Our customers have been incredibly sweet and receptive to our new store. We only have “good problems” and that is not something to complain about!
In five years, I went from being an employee who wasn’t sure about my future to a business owner. I wonder what I’ll be able to chat about during my 15 year reunion.